Interview with CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar: Input Stagnation, Korean Localization, EVE Online and Echoes
Hot off the heels of a brand new Korean localization coming to EVE Online, we had the pleasure of sitting down with CCP Games' longstanding CEO, Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, about the insight his team has gained over the recent months. From localizations to items on the roadmap and even a brief answer on Project Nova, we had a lot of insight to glean from Mr. Veigar about what's to come for EVE Online.
By the way, EVE Online: Invasion Chapter 2, the next step in the ongoing Triglavian storyline, is set to be released tomorrow.
A brief introduction by Hilmar Veigar.
This year, we have been running what are called Invasion World Tour Series. We usually do a major fan event in Iceland every year, but we decided not to do that this year but to take that show around the world. We have now gone to Amsterdam, Sydney, Toronto, Berlin, Finland, Russia, we’ve been all over. It’s kind of twofold. There’s an invasion going on in EVE Online where the Triglavians have been amping up their presence and the Drifters have been counteracting. And then we’ve also been taking the game a lot closer to people around the world and obviously here at G-Star, we’re doing that to an even greater extent. We’re bringing a new localization (Korean) at the same time. That has been the big beat for us this year.
What lessons has CCP Games learned from the Age of Chaos and blackout experiments, and how do those lessons impact CCP’s plans for the future of EVE Online?
I would say that the biggest learning points are that we can certainly address the underlying stagnation in the game and it was maybe a bit brutal how we addressed it or at least kicked it off, and that got later dubbed as the Chaos Era. I think we are now rolling into something more that you could call ‘controlled chaos’ or ‘structured chaos’ where we are still going to doing some dynamic changes into the inputs of the economy of [EVE Online]. As I tend to say, ‘if you have stagnant inputs, you’re going to have stagnant outputs’. We are now rolling what we kicked off over the Summer into more of the structured chaos, where we are going to be shifting around some of the major inputs that have to do with mineral distribution and also some other resources that go into the economy which have been too predictable and stagnant for too long that have lead to stagnation in the economy and stagnation in the political system. These things have certainly loosened up quite a bit.
You’ve teased a little bit of the roadmap during EVE Vegas but there wasn’t too much substance to it. What can you tell us about the plan for the game going into 2020?
The biggest thing that we were talking about in Vegas is the rolling two-week release cycle where we have a dedicated team delivering on that and they’ve been releasing ever since. Historically, we have been talking way too much about long-term roadmaps and invasions and I definitely want to reduce that and focus much more on delivery, which I hope people are noticing. We are delivering meaningful changes to the game every two weeks on top of the regular expansion content. We also talked more level about the elements of the input stagnation, how we’re going to be introducing more nature-like elements into the worlds where you will be able to experience shifting landscapes, something like weather but obviously not weather (just a similar concept). We have chaotic changes in the world that still follow a pattern. The [real life] weather is a great example of that. Weather is unpredictable but you can still more or less guess if it’s going to rain five hours from now, but you can’t plan a date three months from now and be guaranteed that it’s not going to rain.
Since the end of the galactic war last year, nullsec has largely coalesced around a small number of mega-alliances. There are some like the Imperium and Legacy coalitions holding about fifty thousand characters all together. At the same time, conflict around the map appears to be dying down and some of the famous alliances like Skill Urself and Snuffed Out disbanded. What are your plans to shake up the emerging stalemate and generate more conflict in nullsec?
It has to do with the input stagnation. Most of the regions in EVE Online are relatively self-sufficient when it comes to resources, which are changes we did a few years ago and frankly not good changes. By shifting the resource distribution, you will force people out of their comfort zones when they can stop being self-sufficient and acquiring all of their resources in one region. By making the resource distribution both more asymmetric and also more dynamic, you will change and shift the inputs so that people will go to war. Ultimately, wars are fought over territory and resources, whether they’re in EVE Online or the real world. Currently, because the resources in Eve Online don’t deplete and don’t shift around, that is leading to the political stagnation that we have been looking at for a few years. It is not just a current phenomenon.
Will the Alliance Tournament return in 2020?
I think we will see something in the spirit of [the Alliance Tournament] returning. The format will be different as we’re still designing the format. The challenge with the Alliance Tournament was that it was extremely time-consuming for *everyone* involved: players, CCP employees and viewers alike. But, definitely having a sports tournament of sorts to look forward to is something that we want to reinstate. We want to do it in a different format where it is more modern. There’s a lot of lessons to be taken from various esports tournaments that have developed since we have started the Alliance Tournament in 2004. A lot has changed since then but the format of the tournament has evolved a little bit. We need a more fundamental evolution of it.
Can you talk about the current status of Project Nova?
No, I can’t. *laughs*
Aside from the new player experience and the changes to input stagnation, do you have any other high priority goals in mind for Eve Online or CCP Games as a whole?
Well, the high priority goal is to set EVE Online up for a third decade of growth, which is a pretty insane plan when you think about it. We’re on year 16 and it will turn year 17 in May. The way to achieve that is to address the stagnation in the political sphere like you were asking about. On the flip side, [we need to] embrace new players better than we have done before. So far, so good. We have a game, in my view, in a much better state now in November than it was at the start of the year. We’ve also been addressing a lot of fundamental technology components like the release of a 64-bit client. Our launcher is a lot better than it was at the start of the year. We’re cleaning up a lot of the localization and territory expansions. You can see that very clearly with the release in Korea. Our German, French and Russian localizations have also been hardened a lot over the year. That goes further and deeper into the better embracing of new players and ties into the world tour series where we are taking our fan events on the road around the world. Those are the high-level goals and I would call them pretty ambitious.
Do you see additional localizations in the works for EVE Online?
We will have to measure the impact of [the Korean localization]. I think we will, before we do another one, probably have to deepen and harden the ones we already have. We have taken this entry into Korea much differently than the other localization we have done. We’re coming up with a big splash as you can see [at G-Star 2019] if you see the queue at the Eve Online booth. We have worked very closely with Pearl Abyss in making sure the translation is high quality and the whole localization is more than just the translation of the text. We’re gotten a lot of regional-specific advice from Pearl Abyss. We aim to bring that to the French, German and Russian localizations as well.
Do you plan any bottom-up approach to better integrate players’ knowledge or feedback into the gameplay [of EVE Online]?
Well, I think we do a lot of that with Customer Service management. We have an endless amount of engagement with players throughout the fan events. I don’t think we could more. I would say, to some extent, we almost do too much. It’s obvious that it’s something we’re extremely known for. Sometimes, that has also led to some of the stagnation we are experiencing in the game. What people are asking us for is sometimes not always what the game needs.
Tiericide started about four years ago. Are there any plans to wrap it up within the decade?
Okay. What we need to do, which is related to [Tiericide], is how ships and modules in EVE Online are organized, categorized, and presented to players. [That] is something that needs a rework. There are now 300 space ships in the game. Most of the systems in the game are designed around 30 spaceships in the beginning. The ship offering and module offering have outgrown the structure we have to present it to players. As a consequence, it is extremely confusing to new players but it’s also confusing to mid-level players. I wouldn’t call it confusing to high-level players because Eve players have an amazing capacity to onboard all of the complex things. There are plans in motion to better manage that huge catalog of optionality that the game provides.
Do you have any plans that you can talk about for EVE Mobile?
Yes. We are working on EVE Echoes with Netease and it has been in closed testing since August. We are doing a soft launching phase in December. You can sign up to join and it’s amazing. I would royally encourage anyone to try it out. It boggles the mind that we have been able to bring all of the massiveness of EVE Online to a mobile device.
Will there be microtransactions for EVE Echoes?
EVE Mobile will use the best practices from mobile game business models.
For the future roadmap, do you have any plans to increase the number of systems or solar systems for EVE Online?
What I would want to achieve is a more high-level concept rather than going down to the number of solar systems. The sense of wonder and exploration is something that I would like to increase, whether that’s new solar systems or allowing players to more deeply explore the current solar systems. A solar system is huge; it’s ginormous and while we offer some way to traverse the current systems, there is a lot that we know about solar systems now which we didn’t know when we assembled EVE Online. Most of the universe structure to EVE Online was made twenty years ago. Discoveries in astrophysics have just been rather amazing in the past twenty years and we have participated in some of the exoplanet discovery projects which have contributed a little bit to Michel Mayor getting a Nobel Prize [in Physics]. It’s time for us to leverage some of the knowledge that mankind has gained and that we have contributed to in a tiny way to enrich the current playfield of EVE Online. It might not mean just more solar systems.
Gavin: You could just say it’s science fiction.
Science fact is currently outstripping our science fiction. We have various solutions to challenges in EVE Online. We have solutions for faster-than-light communication and faster-than-light travel and written science fiction articles about that, which have held up very well. The actual structure of our solar system has not kept up with the times. There are elements that we have never put into [Eve Online] like Oort clouds, comets, off-orbit planets, rogue planets, black holes. There are so many things to explore in the space physics of EVE Online.
For years, players have asked for an easier way to the Stain region. Are there any plans to include a lowsec gate to Stain?
The fact that the travel in EVE Online as stagnant as the mineral stagnation is one of the input stagnations that need to be addressed. Having more changes to where gates lead to and from is something that is on the table to revise.
Thank you for your time.